Vicks VapoRub is a medicated product produced by Proctor & Gamble. Its primary function is as a cough medicine, but it can also be used to relieve congestion and minor muscle aches. The most familiar version of Vicks is meant for adults and children age 2 or older, and should never be used on babies. However, Vicks makes a special non-medicated version called BabyRub that is safe for use on babies from 3 months.
The adult version of Vicks is medicated. It contains camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol, and all of them are effective cough suppressants. Most of these ingredients, particularly camphor, are a bit too strong to be put on the delicate skin of a baby, so you should not use regular Vicks on a baby under 2 years old.
The baby version of Vicks is more delicate than the adult version, and it is not medicated. Though it does contain a very small amount of the eucalyptus oil, it does not contain the strong camphor and menthol. It works like an aromatherapy balm with lavender and rosemary, which are both gentle on your baby's skin and have a lovely calming scent.
Risks and Warnings
Even in a pinch, never use the adult version of any medication on a baby. Adult Vicks is heavily medicated with ingredients that can cause your baby to have serious respiratory problems. According to Dr. Bruce Rubin of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who conducted a study on the effects of adult Vicks on the respiratory system, when the product is used on children, especially when placed directly under the nose, the active ingredients in the adult version can produce the exact opposite effect of what the parent might be looking for because they can cause the body to produce even more mucus in order to clear out the airways, which creates even more congestion. Both the adult version and the baby version of the medication clearly state on the packaging that the product should not be placed in or around the nostrils, so this warning should be heeded, and parents should remember that using the adult version can create serious respiratory problems when used on children. The warnings on both versions of the product also warn to avoid the contact with the eyes, and not to use the product internally, on the face or on broken skin.
To put BabyRub on your baby, rub the ointment gently on your baby's chest, neck and his back. Keep in mind that, though the ingredients of the ointment function on their own, the rubbing motion itself is soothing for your baby, and it also helps to warm up the product, which helps to release the aromas. Be sure to only use the ointment on the body directly, and never heat it up since it is an oil-based product and could cause burns. Do not put it in a humidifier or a vaporizer because it might overheat or cause dangerous spatters.
Because babies are so sensitive, you can also try a warm bath to help break up your baby's congestion or to soothe a cough. Try a soothing nighttime baby wash that includes lavender, which will complement the lavender in the Vicks BabyRub.